Information About Pertussis

Since 2012, there have been increasing levels of pertussis, also called “whooping cough,” in Alaska. Recently, a few cases of pertussis have been reported in Juneau schools.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease caused by a bacteria found in the mouth, nose and throat of an infected person. Pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms and a cough that gradually becomes worse.  Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs sometimes followed by a crowing or high-pitched whoop, or vomiting. Pertussis can be a very serious disease, especially for infants less than one year old.  Pertussis is spread person to person through respiratory droplets typically produced when a person with pertussis coughs or sneezes. Persons with symptoms of pertussis should be careful to limit exposure to others from respiratory secretions, and consult their primary provider.

Immunization against pertussis is the best way to help prevent outbreaks in our community and protect infants.

Public Health Recommended Actions:

  • If adults have not had a pertussis vaccine as an adult, it is recommended that adults receive one booster of Tdap vaccine.
  • Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect the newborn from pertussis.
  • Any child less than 7 years of age who is not up to date on pertussis immunizations should obtain a dose of DTaP vaccine as soon as possible. 
  • If your child currently has or develops symptoms of pertussis (prolonged cough which may include vomiting), please tell your health care provider.  Children who become ill with symptoms of pertussis will need to be treated and stay home for the 5 days of treatment.  Children who are ill and do not take the medicine should be excluded from childcare facilities for at least 21 days.
  • Adults who develop symptoms of pertussis should contact their primary providers for evaluation. They should avoid exposing others by staying home until 5 days of treatment has been completed.

Adults who are uninsured or underinsured and children who are eligible for Vaccine for Children Program can contact the Juneau Public Health Center at 907-465-3353 for immunizations.

Persons with health insurance should contact their primary providers for health care and immunizations.

For more information about pertussis, please visit the State of Alaska Section of Epidemiology website

If you have questions or concerns regarding these recommendations, you may contact Public Health Nurses at the Juneau Public Health Center at 907-465-3353.